Needs for Care, Service Use and Quality of Life in Dementia: 12-Month Follow-Up of the Actifcare Study in Portugal




Caregivers, Dementia, Health Services Accessibility, Needs Assessment


Introduction: The intermediate stages of dementia are relatively under-researched, including in Portugal. The Actifcare (ACcess to TImely Formal Care) EU-JPND project studied people with mild-moderate dementia, namely their needs, access to and use of community services (e.g., day centers, home support). In our baseline assessment of the Portuguese Actifcare cohort, the unmet needs of some participants would call for formal support, which was not always accessible or used. We now report the main results of the 12-month follow-up, analyzing changes in needs, service (non)use, quality of life and related variables.
Methods: This was a longitudinal, observational study using a convenience sample of 54 dyads of people with dementia and their family carers. Our main outcomes were the Camberwell Assessment of Need for the Elderly (CANE) and the Resources Utilization in Dementia. Clinical-functional, quality of life, psychological distress and caregiving-related assessments were also used.
Results: At follow-up, the cognitive and functional status of people with dementia declined (p < 0.001), and their neuropsychiatric symptoms increased (p = 0.033). Considering CANE interviewers’ ratings, the total needs of people with dementia increased at follow-up (p < 0.001) but not the unmet needs. Quality of life was overall stable. The use of formal care did not increase significantly, but informal care did in some domains. Carers’ depressive symptoms increased (p = 0.030) and perseverance time decreased (p = 0.045). However, carers’ psychological distress unmet needs were lower (p = 0.007), and their stress and quality of life remained stable.
Conclusion: People with dementia displayed complex biopsychosocial unmet needs. Their cognitive-functional decline over one year was not accompanied by a corresponding increase in any pattern of unmet need, nor of service use. Reliance on informal care (namely supervision) may have contributed to this. Caregiving-related outcomes evolved according to different trends, although stability was almost the rule. Primary carers were even more present at follow-up, without an apparently heavier toll on their own needs, burden, and quality of life. Overall, this longitudinal study comprehensively assessed Portuguese community-dwelling people with dementia. Despite the lack of generalizability, participants’ needs remained overall stable and partly unmet over one year. Longer follow-up periods are needed to understand such complex processes.


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How to Cite

Gonçalves-Pereira M, Marques MJ, F. Alves R, Verdelho A, Balsinha C, Alves L, Alves Reis T, Woods B, de Vugt M, Verhey F, on behalf of the Actifcare Consortium. Needs for Care, Service Use and Quality of Life in Dementia: 12-Month Follow-Up of the Actifcare Study in Portugal. Acta Med Port [Internet]. 2024 Mar. 8 [cited 2024 May 18];37(5):355-67. Available from: